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Corporate Support Tops $16 Million To Move Rays To Ybor City

Steve Newborn
WUSF Public Media
Ron Christaldi, Tampa Bay Rays 2020 co-founder and co-chair

A group of business and professional people said they're making progress in a push to lure the Tampa Bay Rays from their home in St. Petersburg to a new stadium in Tampa's Ybor City.

The Tampa Bay Rays 2020 is a non-profit organization created by Tampa business leaders.

“I am pleased to announce as of today, we’ve gotten over $16 million in annual pledges for the Rays when they enter this new ballpark," said Ron Christaldi, Tampa Bay Rays 2020 co-founder and co-chair. "That’s $16 million in corporate support through sponsorships and ticket sales that will come in to revenue for the ballpark when it opens.”

He spoke during a press conference today at the J.C. Newman Cigar Co. in Ybor City.

It is estimated that a new ballpark will cost around $900 million.

The Tampa Bay Rays 2020 also announced the co-chairs of the five different leadership committees representing the five business and professional sectors in support of the new Rays stadium project at Ybor City:

  • Carlton Fleming for professional athletes
  • Eric Page and John Dicks for legal
  • Jim Sullivan for hospitality
  • Chip Diehl and Jeff Cathey for military and veterans
  • Katie Gower for real estate development

Some of the financing of the stadium is also anticipated to include tourist taxes, financing based on economic opportunity zones - which encourages investments in low-income areas - and revenue from stores that would be built around the ballpark.
Christaldi said the ballpark in Ybor City will serve as an economic engine for the entire Tampa Bay community.

“We are asking folks to take a big leap of faith and we’ve already gotten this ‘tip of the iceberg’ tremendous support. The business community in Tampa Bay has stepped up big time, like it never has before in the past,” says Christaldi.

A pollster from Washington, D.C. surveyed 500 Hillsborough residents about the idea of relocating the Rays from Tropicana Field to Ybor City. About 70 percent of the people interviewed said they approved of the move.

The Rays have a Dec. 31 deadline to notify St. Petersburg of whether the team plans to leave Tropicana Field before the end of their 2027 lease.

Hannah Yechivi is a WUSF digital intern for fall 2018.
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